Archive by Author

Quick Smoke: Avo Unexpected Passion

16 Aug 2019

A couple times each week we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

As an Avo fan, I was excited by news of a limited-production line called Unexpected with four blends. There’s little info on the tobaccos used in the four, other than one note per offering. For Passion (6 x 50, $10.50) it’s that one of the leaves is 25 years old. Whatever the composition, Passion nails that trademark Davidoff grassy, mushroom-y profile from start to finish. There are other flavors along the way, like a little pepper and a bit of sweetness. But they play second fiddle. Overall, I found this cigar to be just a little too much of the same thing. I’m interested in trying the other three Unexpected blends, though.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Avo

Cigar Review: Espinosa Alpha Dawg Short Churchill

14 Aug 2019

Even without the name and the black-and-white sketch of cigar maker Erik Espinosa on the box top, this cigar would stand out. The Habano Rosado wrapper is nearly flawless and has a nut-like pre-light aroma.

The profile begins with pepper, befitting the Nicaraguan binder and filler. Performance is excellent: solid burn, tight ash, lots of smoke, and a good draw. It does, however, burn a little fast.

There are quite a few changes along the way. The pepper recedes a bit after the start, giving way to woodsy notes and spice. Other flavors include a honey sweetness, espresso, and leather. Strength is generally in the upper range of medium, tending to increase somewhat as the cigar burns down.

I’ve smoked a box of the Short Churchills and found them very consistent from cigar to cigar.

Alpha Dawg comes in three sizes, all packaged in boxes of 10. The Short Churchills (6 x 48) list for $8.75 each. The two other sizes are a Corona Gorda (5.6 x 46) and Robusto (5 x 50).

The cigar began life as an event-only stick, chosen by attendees from three blends presented a few years ago at an event celebrating cigars from Espinosa’s La Zona factory in Estelí, Nicaragua. According to Espinosa, demand pushed it into regular production.

I’ve gone on record before about silly cigar names. And I’d have to put Alpha Dawg into that category, though I probably should add an asterisk.

I can’t say I know Espinosa, but I have met and talked with him several times, and he’s an interesting, larger-than-life sort of guy. It’s that personality that makes me believe the name and presentation overall comes with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

The Alpha Dawg is an interesting, satisfying smoke, especially for those who like Nicaraguan tobacco and appreciate subtlety. I recommend the cigar and give it four stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Avo Limited Edition 2013 The Dominant 13th

11 Aug 2019

A couple times each week we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

I came across this cigar recently at a local shop and immediately picked it up. While I couldn’t recall details, I did remember thoroughly enjoying one shortly after its release about six years ago. Age has done nothing but improve the Dominant 13th. The beautiful Ecuadorian Habano 2000 wrapper covers a Dominican binder and a variety of Dominican filler leaves and tobacco from Peru. The complex, toro-sized (6 x 52) blend may have lost a bit of strength, but it’s incredibly smooth. Flavors, ranging from black pepper to a subtle sweetness, are balanced and enticing. If you spot a Dominant 13th, don’t hesitate to light up.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Davidoff of Geneva

News: Cigars International’s Next Step Is Florida

2 Aug 2019

Retail giant Cigars International is planning its first venture into the southeast with a new store just north of Tampa.

The move comes months after the retailer’s owner, Scandavanian Tobacco Group (STG), announced plans to shut Tampa operations for Thompson Cigar, which it bought last year for $62 million.

The new Florida store will continue Cigars International’s expansion efforts beyond its Pennsylvania roots. Last year, it opened a 6,000-square-foot shop in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.

Florida and Pennsylvania are home to many online/catalog cigar retailers like Cigars International because neither state imposes a separate cigar tax.

In recent years, the Tampa area has seen moves by several cigar industry giants. Imperial Brands Casa de Montecristo bought and renamed Tampa Humidor in 2018, and Davidoff partnered with Jeff Borysiewicz, owner of Orlando-based Corona Cigar Co., to open a signature shop near the airport.

STG is a massive player in the tobacco market, especially through manufacturer General Cigar. Other holdings include Cigar.com, Cigars & Pipes online store, and a number of pipe tobacco and machine-made cigar brands.

It is in the process of winding down Thompson’s Tampa operations, where the company has operated since moving from Key West in 1920.

The new Cigars International store is proposed for a retail area north of Tampa near the intersection of interstates 75 and 275, according to an article in the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s not so much a cigar store, but a destination,” company president Craig Reynolds told the newspaper.

Plans call for opening next year.

George E

photo credit: Cigars International

Quick Smoke: My Father La Promesa Toro

21 Jul 2019

A couple times each week we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

Like so many cigars from Don José “Pepin” Garcia, La Promesa starts with a pleasing blast of pepper. Unlike some others, though, this one dials it back a bit before getting too far along. With an oily Ecuadorian Habano wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler, there’s a wide mix of flavors ranging from tobacco sweetness to leather and nuts. Strength is in the medium range. This new line from My Father Cigars comes in five sizes, with the Toro (6 x 52) running about $9.25. Originally introduced a few years ago in small numbers to qualify under FDA rules, La Promesa is now a full-scale release.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: My Father Cigars

Quick Smoke: Tatuaje Exclusive Series TAA 51st

12 Jul 2019

A couple times each week we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

I’ve found another cigar with a Mexican San Andrés wrapper that I like. With Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos, it’s a rich, creamy smoke with chocolate and espresso overtones and none of the dirt taste I often associate with the San Andrés leaf. In addition to the wrapper, the band is also a major departure from Tatuaje’s past exclusives. This limited edition of 60,000 sticks—Tatuaje’s ninth for the Tobacconists’ Association of America (TAA)—comes as a robusto (5 x 52) with a retail price of about $12 each. This is one I highly recommend.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Cure Your Lighter Woes with the Z-Plus 2 Lighter Insert

8 Jul 2019

If there’s one thing most cigar smokers can agree on, it’s that, while butane torches are great for lighting up, they can also be among the finickiest, most unreliable, most erratic of accessories. Finding one that works well is often a quest.

For several months, I’ve been using a Z-Plus 2 insert in a Zippo case. I’ve been impressed.

Z-Plus inserts come in single- and double-flame varieties with a price difference of only a couple of dollars. I paid less than $25 for both a new Zippo and a double-flame insert. (Note: This article is not the result of any request by a manufacturer, distributor, or any other entity besides my own curiosity; I paid for the inserts myself.) I chose a standard Zippo brushed chrome case that doesn’t appear to have changed since I carried one in high school to light Marlboro cigarettes.

One of the first things most cigar smokers learn is to not use a conventional lighter with petroleum-based liquid fluid. The concern is that the fluid’s smell can get transferred to the tobacco. Butane, on the other hand, is an odorless gas at room temperature and has virtually eliminated lighter fluid as the preferred fuel supply for cigar lighters.

But, as noted earlier, butane lighters can be dicey to keep working over the long haul—or sometimes even over the short haul. Most use an electronic spark to ignite the butane, and that can become misaligned. Or the flame valves can get clogged. Sometimes, though, it’s nearly impossible to figure out what’s wrong, other than the darn thing won’t light. It can be terribly frustrating, especially since many of these lighters cost an arm and a leg.

My Z-Plus has ignited consistently. The only lighting problem I’ve encountered was my own fault. After filling the lighter and sliding it into the case, I found the flame would die only a few seconds after igniting. Finally, it dawned on me that it was probably shipped with the flame at its lowest setting and should be adjusted. Since adjusting that? No problems.

They’re made by the Lotus Group, one of the major lighter and accessory manufacturers. There’s little visual difference in the single- and double-flame models, though the single’s casing is opaque so you’re not able to see the fuel level.

Another attraction of the Z-Plus insert and competitors such as Vector’s Thunderbird line is for collectors. The variety of Zippo cases is seemingly endless.

Zippo itself tried the butane market a few years ago with a distinctive lighter it called Blu. Apparently, it never really caught on and even ran into legal trouble over the name. Finally, the lighter, by then called the more-prosaic Zippo Butane Fueled Lighter, was discontinued in 2016. (My colleague, Patrick A, had a Blu, but it was eventually confiscated by a TSA agent.)

I have only one real complaint with the Z-Plus, and it’s rather minor. Though there’s no problem depressing the ignition when the lighter is upright, it can be a little tricky to keep your fingers out of harm’s way when used at an angle for a touch-up.

Overall, I highly recommend the Z-Plus 2 as a low-cost butane torch. It’s worth a try—especially if, like me, you’ve had problems with other torches.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys